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Spain fines Google €900,000 for data privacy violations

20 Dec 2013

Google has been fined €900,000 (£750,000) for violating the rights of citizens in Spain by failing to give them enough information on the data it collects and how it is used.

The Spanish Data Protection Authority (AEPD) said that it had found the firm guilty on three separate counts relating to its data collection

“Google does not give users enough information about what data they collect and for what purposes it uses them, that Google combines those data gathered through various services, keeps them for an indefinite time and makes difficult the exercise of the rights of the citizens,” it said.

As such the authority has fined Google the maximum €300,000 per privacy violation. The firm must also implement measures to remedy the issues immediately.

The report by the AEPD went on to explain that, for example, the Gmail service does not give any specifics on how data is scanned and uses very ambiguous language.

“Google does not inform clearly to users of Gmail that the content of mails and attached files is filtered with the aim to insert tailored advertising. Where Google does inform it uses vague terminology, with generic and unclear expressions that prevent users from knowing what they really mean."

It also criticised the firm for making it almost impossible to have their own data removed from Google's databases.

“Google hinders - and in some cases prevents - the exercise of the rights of access, rectification, cancellation and opposition,” it said.

“The procedure that citizens have to follow to exercise their rights or to manage their own personal information requires them to access to an undetermined number of web pages, scattered in several links, that are not available for all types of users and, occasionally, with denominations that do not always refer to its real object.”

Google said in a statement that it would continue to engage with the authority, but did not acknowledge or accept the fine.

“We’ve engaged fully with the Spanish DPA throughout this process to explain our privacy policy and how it allows us to create simpler, more effective services, and we’ll continue to do so. We’ll be reading their report closely to determine next steps,” it said.

The case comes amid a series of reviews of Google's privacy policies. Recently Dutch authorities said the search giant was in breach of its laws while the UK and France are also investigating the firm.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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